Vernacular architecture, its craftspeople and our sustainable future

| 6th October 2017
Vernacular architecture on the Cape Coat Beach, West Africa.
Vernacular architecture on the Cape Coat Beach, West Africa.
Editor Dr SANDRA PIESIK discusses her new book Habitat: Vernacular Architecture for a Changing Planet and how it examines what the traditions of vernacular architecture, and its regional craftspeople around the world, can teach us about creating a more sustainable future.
Created by a multidisciplinary team of over one hundred and forty scholars from fifty countries, HABITAT offers an impartial overview of the native built environment of the Planet.

The relationship between the built environment and climate is an interesting one. The first people used available local resources for the construction of shelters in response to their local climates.

Technology developed in this evolutionary way survived through millennia and existed in harmony with nature and the climate. The 1st and the 2nd industrial revolutions changed this equilibrium and man-made impact on the Planet has already been well documented.

The Paris Agreement and all three conventions adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 – talk about technology transfer. They also recognise the importance of ecosystems and natural resources.  

Created by a multidisciplinary team of over one hundred and forty scholars from fifty countries, HABITAT offers an impartial overview of the native built environment of the Planet.

A desert climate

In a world which is trying to address the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of globalisation and westernisation geography is important. Not only cultural factors but also an understanding of geography guides us towards the first, low cost, impactful and effective indigenous climate technologies.


In the age of the 3rd and 4th industrial revolutions – it is more important than ever to talk about them simply because, many of these technologies are suffering from decades of underinvestment.


The pace of knowledge economy technologies such as IT, digital, AI is fast and uncontrollable; baseline and intermediate technologies have their place and application, particularly in the least developed countries and in countries with high level of climate vulnerability such as those with a desert climate.


Native built environment


“HABITAT: Vernacular Architecture for a Changing Planet” is a publication that captures a global overview of these first climate technologies in the context of climate zones and eco-systems of the world.

It is the first contemporary global review of vernacular architecture carried out in the past twenty years connecting climate zones with natural resources and indigenous technologies.

Created by a multidisciplinary team of over one hundred and forty scholars from fifty countries, HABITAT offers an impartial overview of the native built environment of the Planet.


Technology mechanism


Initial analysis of HABITAT case studies and Sustainable Development Goals demonstrated cross-cutting linkages across several industrial sectors such as: agriculture, manufacturing, water management, construction, activities of households as employers etc. 

The socio-economic and environmental impact of these case studies on sustainable development is of paramount importance. In order to connect to this traditional wisdom and effectively pursue adaptation of existing technologies in the global context, we must follow the Paris Agreement Road Map.


The Technology Mechanism established under the UNFCCC is working. It is comprised of the Conference of the Parties, Policy Arm (Technology Executive Committee - TEC) and Implementation Arm (The Climate Technology Centre and Network – CTCN).


Technological solutions


Technical assistance is based on developed and developing countries, so understanding of geography and of where we are in the world in terms of technical assistance matters.

The Paris Agreement itself also recognises in adoption “the development and enhancement of endogenous capacities and technologies” and in the Preamble “the intrinsic relationship that climate change actions, responses and impacts have with equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty”.


The Tenth CTCN Advisory Board Meeting that took place between 29th to 31st August 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark touched upon various important aspects of working Technology Mechanism on transformative, scalable and replicable technological solutions.

Transformative change


Stakeholder engagement is important and there is a role for non-state actors in the process of delivering bankable projects on the ground.  Public and private financing is in demand.

There is also a role for research, development, deployment and innovation initiatives that may hold clues on useful adaptation of solutions that people developed through millennia.

Hybrid technologies, mixing old and new, capacity – building in meeting social aspirations and various technology needs assessments will deliver a transformative change.

The reason why we need to connect to this existing road map agreed in the Paris Agreement is driven by the fact that the problems and challenges we are facing are so big that no one entity or one country can solve them on their own.


The fastest way for the implementation of sustainable development solutions on the ground is through established, existing, working mechanisms and cross-sectorial holistic approaches.

This Author

Dr Sandra Piesik is General Editor of “Habitat: Vernacular Architecture for a Changing Planet.”

'Habitat: Applying the Lessons of Vernacular Architecture to our Changing Planet'. Implementation of the Paris Agreement through Adaptation and Technology Development and Transfer event is on 11th October 2017 at 6pm at the University of Westminster.


It is first event in the United Kingdom exploring traditional knowledge systems and technologies in the context of the Paris Agreement. Free entry. RSVP required:



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